A Brief History of What Makes This Election so Important for Tiverton
Two issues have been at the center of Tiverton politics since the last election: revenue from the Twin River casino and the ability of residents to control their taxes using the financial town referendum (FTR). Both of these issues were expected to come to a head this year, and they did as the Town Council abused its authority to grab power over casino revenue and block anything they didn’t like from the ballot, both at the FTR and this coming November.
So, with a resolution passed on February 27, 2017, the council held an election for a Charter Review Commission (CRC). The Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA) ran a campaign promising to protect the FTR, protect taxpayers’ ability to control casino revenue through the FTR/budgeting process, and update and improve the charter.
When all the votes had been counted, the TTA slate had won all nine available seats. But that wasn’t how the council wanted things to go. Under the leadership of Denise DeMedeiros, the council clearly hoped to use the CRC to push through its power grab. Unable to do that, it just ignored the duly elected CRC for months and fought it the rest of the time.
Meanwhile, members of TTA put together resolutions and an alternate budget for the FTR to give voters more leverage against the council’s power grabs. The council couldn’t have that! The Town Solicitor — who works at the pleasure of the council and who offered no assistance to the CRC — blocked multiple resolutions from the FTR ballot.
At the same time, members of the council and their political allies were spreading false information about the lower-tax Budget #2. For some reason, the biggest labor union in the state decided it had to spend money to interfere in Tiverton’s election and send out dishonest campaign mailers.
Among the things the council’s allies said were that Budget #2 took too big of a risk by assuming the casino would open on September 1 and that it would be open 24/7. They also said it was paranoid to worry that the charter would be changed to take away residents’ ability to control their taxes with the FTR, including with tax relief from the casino.
Everything TTA said proved true. The FTR was held on May 19th. On May 25, Twin River confirmed its September 1st opening. On June 1st, the council approved 24/7 operation. TTA was even right to point out that sports gambling would add to the revenue the town could expect. As a result, the town’s gambling revenue for the full month of September came to $163,807. If that continues for the rest of the fiscal year, the total will be over $1.6 million, which is $689,493 more than Budget #2 predicted (almost 60%).
Over the summer, the Town Council brushed aside all suggestions from the CRC and put its own resolutions on the ballot (see the back of this pamphlet). Rather than the long cooperative process that Tiverton deserves, the key charter changes on the ballot were simply created by council members.
If those charter changes pass and if the TTA slate does not win in November, Tiverton will change for the worse. If the TTA slate does win, and if the charter remains intact, Tiverton will be a place in which taxpayers have control of their own taxes, including the casino revenue, governed by a Town Council that communicates clearly and deliberately and strives for civil debate to truly represent the people of the town.
Tiverton has an unprecedented opportunity to bring its tax rate down to a reasonable level compared with its neighbors while laying a stronger foundation for the long term, but only if this election doesn’t strip taxpayers of their rights and reduce their ability to control the budget year to year.
Education: BS Aerospace Engineering, Indiana Institute of Technology
Occupation: Inventor and president, SkiMetrix, Ltd., Tiverton, holding several patents and manufacturing products covered by the patents.
Years in Tiverton: Business 20, residence 11
Reason for living in Tiverton: It’s a very nice place on the water.
Relevant experience: President student chapter American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Started several businesses, therefore I am familiar with challenges of managing cash flow, management, employees, etc. Served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Justin David Katz
Justin Katz moved to Tiverton, where he lives with his wife and four children, in 2004 and soon began following Tiverton government closely as a blogger. He was an active participant in the annual financial town meetings (FTMs), was a founding member of Tiverton Citizens for Change (TCC), helped in the successful change of the town’s Home Rule Charter to create the financial town referendum (FTR), was a founding member of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association (TTA), and edits TivertonFactCheck.org.
With other TTA members, Justin developed and submitted elector petitions at four of the seven FTRs, with voters approving three of those as the budget for the town. He has been on the Budget Committee for the past two budget cycles, both of which continued the trend of low, no, or even negative tax increases.
After a decade working locally as a carpenter and construction foreman, Justin became the research director for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity and managing editor of the Center’s news and commentary site, OceanStateCurrent.com. In both roles, he researches and analyzes a broad range of legislation and government policy issues.
Justin holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island and is active with St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic Parish in Tiverton.
Donna J. Cook
Education: Graduate of Tiverton High School, graduate of RI Junior College (CCRI) License Practical Nurse program, graduate of American Eagle Airlines Flight Attendant School
Years in Tiverton: Over 35 years
Reason for living in Tiverton: Grew up here, met my late husband at Tiverton High School, raised my family, love the area
Relevant experience: Raised 3 children and have 8 grandchildren. Served on the Juvenile Hearing Board, Member of the Budget Committee for 3 years. As a LPN, I was a supervisor and charge nurse of nursing units; as a flight attendant, I served as Boston based AFA-CWA Local Executive Council President and was a Member of American Eagle Master Executive Council and AFA-CWA Board of Directors. I believe my experience and the skills I have acquired have given me an understanding of contracts, policies, laws, and the Town Charter and served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Robert D. Coulter
Education: BS (Ocean Engineering), U.S. Naval Academy; M.B.A. (Finance & Economics), University of Chicago; M.P.P., University of Chicago; J.D. Roger Williams University
Years in Tiverton: 14
Reason for living in Tiverton: Good location in region, locally beautiful and diverse, down-to-earth feel
Relevant experience: U.S. Navy; Tiverton Budget Committee; Tiverton Town Council; involvement in various local community organizations; practicing attorney with deep experience in government matters and legal documents/issues in general. Served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Richard A. Rom
Education: Graduated from California Polytechnical Institute, San Luis Obispo, CA, with a BS in Computer Science
Occupation: Principal Systems Engineer with Raytheon Corp., Portsmouth, retiring in 2015 after 28 years. Software Engineer for General Electric, Syscon, and Sperry Univac.
Years in Tiverton: 14
Reason for living in Tiverton: I moved to Tiverton with my wife, Laura, in 2004 after 25 years in Portsmouth, where we raised our four kids. Taxes were reasonable in 2004, and we wanted more land and less house after our last child left for college.
Relevant experience: Listening to voters of Tiverton while campaigning for a 2016 run for Senate District 12, I spoke with so many people and the most popular complaint by far is the excessive increase in property taxes and the concern for casino revenue. Served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Stephen T. Clarke
Education: BS Industrial Education, UNH
Occupation: Product Development Engineer, Retired
Years in Tiverton: 13
Reason for living in Tiverton: My wife and I moved to Portsmouth, RI 24 years ago to pursue my career. After my children went on to college we moved to Tiverton because there is less development, less traffic and beautiful open spaces and seashores.
Relevant experience: As a product development engineer, I lead multi functional teams that developed various medical devices. Many of the skills needed to successfully deliver new medical products to market through a team approach will carry over to achieving results in the political arena. Served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Nancy L. Driggs
Education: B.A.: University of Pennsylvania. J.D.: UCLA School of Law. Member of CA, MA, and RI Bars (currently inactive member)
Occupation: Retired Attorney, both corporate law and child custody litigation. Member of the Island Photography Group
Years in Tiverton: 19 years
Reason for living in Tiverton: Moved from Bristol in 1999 as my husband and I like the rural feel of the town
Relevant experience: Co-Chair of the Financial Town Meeting Changes Advisory Committee (FTMCAC), 2010-2011. Currently an elected member of the Tiverton Budget Committee since 2014. Founding member of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association. Served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Thomas B. Haley
Justin W. LaCroix
Justin La Croix, a Rhode Island native, was born in Pawtucket, RI. A United States Navy War Veteran who faithfully served as a Hospital Corpsman from 2005 to his Honorable Discharge in 2013, Justin served overseas with a tour in the Middle East (2007) and in humanitarian relief efforts during the Haitian Earthquake Crisis (2009) aboard the USNS Comfort. He received his formal education in the field of Clinical Laboratory Science from the Naval School of Health Sciences in San Diego, CA, and his Associates in Science from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and finished his BA in Environmental Science from the University of Phoenix in October 2018. Justin worked at St. Anne’s Hospital as an independent medical laboratory technologist from 2013 through 2018 and currently works as a Special Toxicology Interpretation Scientist for Dominion Diagnostics. Justin was the 2016 candidate for the House of Representatives in District 71. Justin currently resides in Tiverton with his wife Amanda and their four children and served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Joseph R. Sousa
Sheri M. Aakre
Thor D. Aakre
Jeffrey E. Caron
Education: BS Electrical Engineering, University of Vermont. ScM Engineering, Brown University. ScM Physics, Brown University
Occupation: Engineer and business owner
Years in Tiverton: 47
Reason for living in Tiverton: Proximity to my family, the Sakonnet, and my place of employment, all combined with natural landscape beauty
Relevant experience: Charter Review Commission 2003, Budget Committee 2004 – 2010 (Vice-Chair 2007-2008, Chairman 2009-2010), Financial Town Meeting Changes Advisory Committee 2010-2011 (Co-Chair), Budget Committee 2012, Budget Committee 2016-Present. Founding member of the Tiverton Taxpayers Association. Voluntary involvement in numerous issues that have confronted Tiverton since 2003. Served on the Tiverton Charter Review Commission (CRC) during 2017 and 2018.
Check back for information about other candidates.
Vote to reject all ballot questions to change the Home Rule Charter. To keep things easy and because of the way the Town Council put them on the ballot, voters are urged to reject the following ballot questions.
4. Vacancy of Elected Positions. This change would require the council to fill most vacant offices with residents who ran for them in the prior election, in order of the votes that they received.
5. Advocacy by Town Officials. This would expand the degree to which elected officials and employees can use public resources to affect an election if they feel it is their official duty to do so or if they host a public forum open to the public. Less objectionable are the clarifications that elected officials can express their opinions and that political events are not uniquely banned from public spaces available for other events.
6. Charter Complaints. This question would completely rewrite the town’s well-established process for residents to file charter complaints against town officials. It would give the Town Solicitor (who works for the Town Council) complete power to decide whether a case is worth bringing to court, with no way for the person filing the complaint to appeal.
7. Temporary Employees. This would allow the Town Administrator to hire part-time or temporary employees without going to the Personnel Board. It is not clear whether the Personnel Board would have to be consulted if part-time or temporary jobs become full-time.
8. Non-Substantive Changes.
9. Board Membership. This would allow town employees to be appointed to volunteer boards, except Planning and Zoning. A shortage of volunteers makes this understandable, but it should have given residents priority for appointments.
10. Casino Gaming Revenue.This change is a major power grab by the Town Council. It gives the council complete power to spend gaming revenue from the Twin River casino on whatever capital or debt purchases it wants, with no exceptions, emergency provisions, or safeguards. No other revenue for the town is handled this way, and any statements made about how this money might be used are empty promises, because the council has total control.
11. Financial Town Referendum. Tiverton’s popular FTR process was created over a year with broad input in 2012, and it finally began to limit tax increases. This proposal would effectively rewrite the whole thing based on last-minute research by a few council members and would severely reduce voters’ ability to control their taxes. The change would limit the Budget Committee and elector petitions to less than 4% of expenditures and completely take away their ability to estimate revenue, and elector petitions would face new roadblocks:
Tiverton residents who are on the Town Council, School Committee, or Budget Committee would be forbidden from submitting elector petitions. (This may violate their Constitutional rights.)
The Town Solicitor would be able to block any elector petitions or budget proposals simply by claiming they would be “inconsistent” with state law or the town charter, with no ability to appeal.
An elector submitting a resolution or budget would have to get four times as many signatures in order to place it on the ballot.
Every change that an elector proposes would have to appear on the ballot, unlike any competing budget, disadvantaging lower-tax petitions.